Good evening everybody, and welcome to VAVEL USA’s coverage of tonight’s World Baseball Classic finals between Puerto Rico vs USA. Here you can relive the game:
The game will begin at 9 p.m. ET, and will be televised by MLB Network and here live in VAVEL USA. Let’s take a look at the two teams.
Puerto Rico is in the final for the second straight time. In the 2013 WBC, they lost 3-0 to Team Japan. They started the tournament in Pool D, where they went 3-0 with wins over Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy. They followed that up with a 3-0 showing in the second round, with wins over the Dominican Republic, the USA, and another win over Venezuela. In their semifinal game, they defeated the Netherlands 3-2 in 11 innings.
The United States didn’t have quite as easy a time making the title game, as they had to defeat defending champion Japan in the semifinals. They started the tournament with a 3-1 win over Colombia before losing 7-5 to the Dominican Republic. They clinched a spot in the second round with an 8-0 win over Canada. In the second round, they defeated Venezuela, lost to Puerto Rico, and defeated the Dominican Republic to make it to the semifinals, where they defeated Japan 2-1.
Games have been played all across the globe, with preliminary rounds held in Seoul, Tokyo, Miami, and Jalisco. Tokyo also hosted a second-round pool, while San Diego hosted the other second-round pool. The championship rounds are being held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
The World Baseball Classic was first held in 2006, and is held every four years, similar to the Olympics. Japan has won the tournament twice, while the Dominican Republic has one tournament championship. With baseball being unincluded from the Olympics, the WBC is the primary international baseball competition.
In order to be eligible to play in the WBC, a player either has to be a citizen of a particular country, or have significant family heritage in the country. There are a lot of MLB players taking part, though they are subject to restrictions from their respective team.
The real Cinderella story of the tournament was Team Israel, who qualified for the tournament through a qualifying tournament held in Brooklyn, New York. Their opening pool was Pool A, where they went 3-0 and advanced to the second round, where they faltered, losing to the Netherlands and Japan to be eliminated from the tournament. Nevertheless, it was an impressive showing from a country that isn’t used to baseball success.
Team USA will send Stroman to the mound tonight, while Puerto Rico will counter with Lugo. The rest of the starting lineups will be announced closer to game time.
No matter who wins tonight, there will be a first-time WBC winner, as Puerto Rico has also never won the tournament. Their best finish was the 2013 edition, when they finished in second place, losing the championship 3-0 to Japan.
Team USA has struggled on the World Baseball stage, as they have never won the World Baseball Classic, though they have two Olympic Gold medals (1988 and 2000). They also picked up a silver and bronze medal before baseball was eliminated from the Olympics.
Team USA is led by Brandon Crawford, who has a .444 batting average and one triple. Buster Posey and Adam Jones are tied for the team lead in home runs with two, while Eric Hosmer has five runs batted in. The top pitcher for Team USA is Tyler Clippard, who in three apperances has a 2.08 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. Danny Duffy has eight strikeouts to lead the team, while Marcus Stroman has thrown 9.1 innings to lead the team in that category.
Mike Aviles leads Puerto Rico with a .600 batting average, along with three runs batted in and one triple. Correa leads the team with three home runs and nine runs batted in. Overall, they have nine players who have batting averages over .300. On the mound, Seth Lugo has thrown the most innings, with 11. He has a 2.45 ERA and 0.64 WHIP. Hector Santiago and Edwin Diaz both have nine strikeouts.
This isn’t the first meeting between the two teams this tournament. They met in the second round, a game that Puerto Rico won 6-5. In that game, Puerto Rico got off to a hot start, scoring four runs in the first inning. They tagged on another two runs in the sixth, and were able to withstand a late rally by the USA. Carlos Correa led them in the game, going 2-3 with an RBI and a walk.